GOP preoccupation with personhood threatens progress on real issues
A strange mania seems to have afflicted Colorado Republicans. Suddenly some of the most rigid ideologues in recent Colorado political history are scrambling to renounce positions they have advocated for decades — positions that involve women.
Take, for example, Congressman Cory Gardner, who is challenging incumbent Sen. Mark Udall.
The Associated Press reported, “Gardner says he will no longer support measures that grant a fertilized egg the same legal protections as a person.” Unfortunately for Gardner, however, that meme has already taken root in his campaign to unseat Udall.
As ColoradoPols speculated, “Gardner tried to play the card that it’s good for a politician to re-examine issues, but the timing of this announcement betrayed any sincerity. You drop ‘bad news’ on a Friday afternoon because you hope that fewer people will see it or remember past the weekend ... Gardner just wants to be on the record as saying he changed his position so that he can use that defense in a few months when the issue comes back up. Even the least-cynical politico watching this unfold would understand that this was done for purely political reasons.”
ColoradoPols also urged readers not to “forget that Gardner’s public support for ‘Personhood’ came in 2010, when Gardner was wooing Republican voters in order to become the GOP nominee in CD-4. Gardner might have had trouble winning that nomination in 2010 had he not been such a firm supporter of ‘Personhood.’ “
Until the middle of March, Gardner distinguished himself by his uncompromising opposition to any form of abortion, even in cases of rape or incest, and by his public support for the personhood amendment that declared a fertilized human egg should have all the rights of a living being.
Despite the fact that Colorado voters twice rejected the personhood amendment — by 70 percent to 30 last time around — Gardner resolutely holds to the position that life begins at conception. He has repeatedly attempted to transform that vision into Colorado and/or federal law.
When the personhood amendment was put onto the state ballot for the second time in 2010, Gardner personally collected petition signatures to affirm his support for a measure that would not only outlaw all abortion in Colorado, but also forbid some common birth-control methods.
Despite overwhelming public rejection of Gardner’s position that a fertilized egg should have the rights of a living individual, he has clung to his extreme pro-life positions in the face of all opposition.
Since entering Congress, Gardner earned a 100 percent approval rating from anti-abortion proponents for voting 14 times in favor of pro-life legislation.
According to a report released by ProgressNowColorado Executive Director Amy Runyon-Harms, “Gardner has repeatedly endorsed legislation to ban all abortions in Colorado, making no exceptions for victim of rape or incest.”
In addition, Gardner has staked out positions against funding the Affordable Care Act, in favor of banning late-term abortions and defunding Planned Parenthood — not just its modest abortion services, but the entire organization and the multiple services it offers to women.
Or at least he held these positions until a few weeks ago.
Suddenly, surprising both his supporters and detractors, Gardner renounced his extremist position that life begins at conception and acknowledged that his belief was in error.
Unfortunately for Gardner, his readiness to repudiate what had appeared to be deeply held moral principles in order to attract votes offended his traditional supporters, the anti-abortion, anti-women’s reproductive health care zealots of the radical religious right, and the moderate women voters he hoped to snare by his repudiation of the religious values on which he built his reputation as a crusader for the pro-life agenda.
Runyon-Harms charged, “For years, Cory Gardner has proudly been on the fringe of the debate over women’s reproductive rights ... Gardner has repeatedly endorsed ballot measures and introduced legislation to ban all abortions in Colorado, making no exceptions for victims of rape or incest.”
No doubt there are issues of concern to Colorado that are of greater practical importance than the question of when life begins, or even whether zygotes have legal standing. However, until Republicans renounce their hapless crusade for personhood, the real work of rebuilding the Colorado economy will languish.